VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican on Friday urged Muslims to reject violence, work with Christians for peace and to teach their children to love and respect all people and not become “cultural or religious blocs opposed to one another.”

The Vatican’s top official in charge of relations with Muslims, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, issued the traditional message to Muslims to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

In it, he urged Muslims to enter into a dialogue with Christians to “help us to escape from the endless spiral of conflict and multiple tensions which mark our societies.”

It was the most pointed appeal to Muslims from Tauran, who was named in June to head the newly reopened Vatican office that specializes in relations with Muslims, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Church relations with Muslims were badly strained last year after a speech by Pope Benedict XVI that linked Islam to violence.

Benedict later said he regretted that Muslims were offended by his remarks.

Tauran, the Vatican’s foreign affairs chief from 1990 to 2003, has pledged to back the moderate forces within Islam to improve dialogue and help defeat extremist groups that encourage terrorism.

The French prelate said all religious believers had the duty to work together for peace and to “reject, denounce and refuse every recourse to violence which can never be motivated by religion, since it wounds the very image of God in man.”

“We know that violence, especially terrorism, which strikes blindly and claims countless innocent victims, is incapable of resolving conflicts and leads only to a deadly chain of destructive hatred, to the detriment of mankind and societies,” Tauran wrote.

He said he was appealing with all his heart for Muslims to enter a dialogue with Christians so they can work together for peace.

Such dialogue, he said, would give the younger generations an example to follow.

Tauran urged Islamic leaders to educate their children in a way that “honors all human creatures.”

“Thus all forces can be mobilized in the service of mankind and humanity so that the younger generations do not become cultural or religious blocs opposed to one another, but genuine brothers and sisters in humanity,” he said.

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